If you are the parent of a teen or have raised teens you know
that the teen years can be pretty turbulent.
Your happy, easy-to-manage child suddenly starts doing things
they never did before – like questioning why they have to do what you say.
Hormones are doing their thing and your child may become
moody, sensitive, tearful, or quiet for no apparent reason.
You long for the prepubescent days when your kids were… not quite so complicated!
It can be difficult to figure out what your child needs – one
day they feel like a child and are happy to cuddle next to you on the couch,
the next they feel like an adult and push you away.
How are you supposed to maintain your relationship with them
when they are confused – and confusing?
Do your kids even need relationship with you during the teen years?
It may appear that they need you less because they push you away and become more independent, but they actually need you more, just in a different way.
Their needs have changed. Just because they don’t need you to
tie their shoes and hover over them anymore doesn’t mean they don’t still need
an emotional connection with you.
Maintaining a close relationship with your teen is essential
to their emotional well-being and stability. The teen years bring a lot of
pressure from the outside – to be accepted, to perform, to impress.
Combined with this comes an inner confusion and searching for
who they are, what they should do with their lives, and what their values are.
A stable relationship
with you will help your teen navigate this turbulent time.
What does a close, stable relationship between parents and teens look like?
Children talk with their parents often and feel
comfortable sharing thoughts and experiences with them. They are comfortable
asking for advice but still feel free to make choices and decisions.
Parents and children spend time together (eating
meals together daily, family outings, etc) and generally enjoy each other’s
It is not a sign of healthy emotional development for a teen to push parents away, or for parents to let them.
While there should be a growing independence, there should not be a severing of the relationship with parents.
So how do you get and keep a close connection with your teens?
relationship and minor on rules. This may require a mental shift
on your part. If you are majoring in relationship then you will consider what
the condition of your child’s heart is first, before jumping to conclusions.
Learn to ask why. Why is my child speaking to
me this way? Why is my child ignoring home rules? Why is my child living in a
messy room? There is usually always a valid reason.
on relationship doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have rules. You should. They provide
stability. And if you’re going to have rules, then make sure they are enforced.
Giving consequences for breaking rules will
teach your kids to think from cause to effect and make them better
Because rules dictate behaviour, don’t raise
your kids just to only obey rules. Raise them to make good decisions. Help them
think through choices and work through mistakes with them.
Thinking for themselves and making good
decisions will keep them from following the crowd.
their cue. Don’t try and force your teen to open up and talk to you. you
have to earn that. When your teen does start talking, listen. Be available –
physically and emotionally. Stop what you are doing and focus on what they are
saying. Ask them questions, and show interest in what they are interested in.
Listen without judging or correcting.
physical boundaries. Be sensitive to how they are feeling about
physical touch. If they shrug you off, don’t take offense. Ask your teen if
they would like a hug or a shoulder rub. Respect that some days they will want
this and others they won’t. Boys especially may not want you to show affection
in front of their friends, and that’s ok. Don’t embarrass them.
and technology. You are the parent. Maintain your authority with
a firm, calm hand in the area of technology. Your teen needs help keeping
control of their screen time. Teen depression and suicide have increased since
the advent of the smartphone. Cyberbullying, sexting, pornography and a host of
other things are all thrown in kid’s faces thanks to technology, and your teen
needs your help (whether they believe that or not, they do.)
teen feel needed and part of the familyteam. Give them
responsibility. Expect them to contribute to the household by doing chores.
Feeling needed is a great way to make your kids feel involved and connected to
their family. Knowing they are needed is a big self-esteem booster.
Include your teen in decisions you make as a
family – plan family outings and holidays together. Get their opinion on
things. We found our kids to be a valuable source of insight and ideas as they
got older. Parents still have the final say in decisions, but including your
kids will bond them to you.
about everything – it builds partnership. Share some of your
favourite memories from your childhood. Give your kids a view into your life by
sharing some of your current struggles, but don’t make your child a dumping
ground. Talk about the transition from childhood to adulthood they are going
through and how awkward that can be sometimes. Find out what is going on in
their hearts. What are their struggles and fears? What do they enjoy?
being governor to counsellor, but don’t withdraw altogether. Your
child still needs limits. When I was a teen I was invited to go out with a
group of older young people that I didn’t know very well. I couldn’t decide
whether I should go or not. Something felt a bit off, but saying no felt too
hard. My dad came through for me that day – when I asked him what I should do,
he said he didn’t think I should go. I was relieved that I had the excuse that
my parents said I couldn’t go. I do believe it saved me some trouble. Your teens
still need you to be a safe place for them, and healthy boundaries provide
do need to correct don’t attack character. Instead of saying “How
could you do such a stupid thing?” say, “We don’t agree with your choice and
this is why. Why did you do it? What should you do next time? What can you
learn from this experience?”
respect. Respect breeds respect, and has to be earned not demanded. Treating
your teen like an adult even if they don’t always display adult behaviour will
help you maintain your relationship with them. Speak respectfully, respect closed
doors, say please and thank you.
the positive in your teen and comment on it. Give healthy praise where
praise is due. Try to have more positive interactions than negative. Don’t be false
and pretend though. A teen will pick up on this and reject it.
respond instead of react. Reacting means you follow impulse in the
spur of the moment, allowing anger or frustration to dictate how you treat your
teen. Responding means you take time to
think about the problem, let your anger simmer down, and deal with the problem
calmly and reasonably.
earnestly for your child and for yourself. Kids are facing
challenges way more difficult than we ever did. They need your prayer support. Job
interceded for his children daily (Job 1:5) and as a result God placed a hedge
about them (Job 1:10). Don’t underestimate the power of prayer.
when necessary. Don’t lower your standards but do apologise when you
are in the wrong. There were many times I said to my kids, “I’m sorry for the
way I spoke to you. I still think you shouldn’t have done … but the way I
reacted was wrong and I apologise.” An apology goes a long way to mending
relationships, no less the one with your teen.
All relationships take work, including the one with your teen.
Do the work and you’ll reach the end of the teen years with your relationship
do you do to maintain the relationship with your teen? What area do you need to
About The Author
Jennifer has diplomas in relationship counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), is a certified SYMBIS facilitator, and is certified in TPM (Transformation Prayer Minsitry). She lives in South Africa, has three grown children, and is married to her best friend – Richard.